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1992 NES port
Developer(s)Arena Graphics
Publisher(s)U.S. Gold
Acclaim Entertainment (GBC)
Designer(s)Archer Maclean
Platform(s)Atari 8-bit (original)
Commodore 64, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Gear, NES
Genre(s)Scrolling shooter

Dropzone is a scrolling shooter developed by Archer Maclean (under the name Arena Graphics) for the Atari 8-bit family and published in 1984 by U.S. Gold. It was ported to the Commodore 64, then later released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Game Gear and Game Boy Color. It was Maclean's first commercial game.

Dropzone is similar in style to the arcade game Defender and borrows many elements,[1][2] including the same font style, alien depictions, and title screen depictions.[3][4]


On the surface of Jupiter's moon, Io, a human scientific research base is under attack by aliens. The player dons a jetpack armed with a laser, a cloaking device and three smart bombs, to rescue the scientists and return them to the base.


The gameplay is much in the style of Defender, Scramble and even Robotron: 2084.[1] Players control the hero trying to rescue the scientists on a horizontally side-scrolling game field.[3] Players must elude or engage various aliens—some slow, others faster—and return the scientists to the base's eponymous dropzone. The aliens capture scientists walking along the ground. The player must shoot the enemy aliens and catch the falling scientists. Sometimes the aliens will carry lethal androids instead, which must be avoided.[3]

The ranks awarded to players at the end of a game are (in order):

  1. Not Listed - practice recommended
  2. Dextral Dodger
  3. Trekie
  4. Moon Cadet
  5. Planetsman
  6. Ace
  7. Planet Marshal
  8. Planet Lord
  9. Star Warrior
  10. Solar Prodigy
  11. Megastar - mission completed

There are 99 levels of gameplay, each increasingly more difficult. After level 99, the levels repeat starting level 95.


Maclean purchased an Atari 800 as soon as they were officially launched in the UK in 1981 and started writing what would eventually evolve into Dropzone. The game would be released for the Atari by US Gold in 1984. It was then converted to the Commodore 64 by Maclean himself.[1] Of the C64 version of the game, Maclean said:

The name Dropzone was not settled on until shortly before the game went gold.[2]

Maclean entered into a publishing deal with U.S. Gold for the European distribution of the game. After 18 months, however, they stopped paying him royalties claiming that the game was no longer selling (in reality, the game kept selling for five to six years). In addition, Maclean travelled a great deal and saw it for sale in areas outside of Europe and even in the United States. After seeking legal advice, four years of legal wrangling with the publisher followed, until they finally settled out of court for copyright infringement. With the proceeds from the settlement, Maclean bought his first Ferrari.[2]


The Commodore 64 version of the game was awarded a Gold Medal in issue 3 of Zzap!64 magazine, with an overall rating of 95%.[6]


The sequel, Super Dropzone, added new weapon types and end-level bosses. It is available for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (titled "Super Dropzone" on all packaging, but only "Dropzone" on the title screen), Game Boy Advance and PlayStation. Only the Game Boy Advance version saw a North American release, the others were European exclusives.


  1. ^ a b c "The making of... Dropzone", Edge, December 2006, archived from the original on 2007-02-21
  2. ^ a b c "Archer MacLean interview". Halcyon Days.
  3. ^ a b c Dropzone at MobyGames
  4. ^ Defender at the Killer List of Videogames
  5. ^ "Zzap!64 Tips Dropzone: An Explanation and Survival Tactics", Zzap!64 (5): 78–79, September 1985
  6. ^ "Dropzone Review", Zzap!64 (5): 18–19, July 1985